Background: Glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, is a chronic optic neuropathy characterized by progressive retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons degeneration and death.
Primary open-angle glaucoma (OAG), the most common type, is often associated with increased intraocular pressure (IOP), however other factors have been recognized to partecipate to the patogenesis of the optic neuropathy. IOP-independent mechanisms that contribute to the glaucoma-related neurodegeneration include oxidative stress, excitotoxicity, neuroinflammation, and impaired ocular blood flow. The involvement of several and diverse factors is one of the reasons for the progression of glaucoma observed even under efficient IOP control with the currently available drugs.
Methods: Current research and online content related to the potential of nutritional supplements for limiting retinal damage and improving RGC survival is reviewed.
Results: Recent studies have suggested a link between dietary factors and glaucoma risk. Particularly, some nutrients have proven capable of lowering IOP, increase circulation to the optic nerve, modulate excitotoxicity and promote RGC survival. However, the lack of clinical trials limit their current therapeutic use. The appropriate use of nutraceuticals that may be able to modify the risk of glaucoma may provide insight into glaucoma pathogenesis and decrease the need for, and therefore the side effects from, conventional therapies.
Conclusion: The effects of nutrients with anti-oxidant and neuroprotective properties are of great interest and nutraceuticals may offer some therapeutic potential although a further rigorous evaluation of nutraceuticals in the treatment of glaucoma is needed to determine their safety and efficacy.